Man faces life for killing of veteran at ATM


Herbert Clayton died in front of an Antioch ATM with only socks on his feet and his car running nearby.

“Herbert Ray Clayton Jr. survived tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did not survive an encounter with Christopher Davis,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said Monday during opening statements in Davis’ trial.

Davis, now 28, is charged with felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery connected to 26-year-old Clayton’s death on June 13, 2007. Four men are charged in the killing, which took place during a violent crime spree, but Davis is at trial alone.

Davis’s case drew attention because for a time attorneys battled about whether Davis could face the death penalty. Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins had declared Davis intellectually disabled, making him ineligible for the death penalty based on past U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Prosecutors gave up an appeal of that decision, and instead on Monday asked jurors if they could consider sentencing Davis to life in prison without parole.

A jury of 10 women and four men will hear Davis’s case. The trial is expected to last a week.

Moore said that four men – Davis; James Phillips, 29; Marcus Bradford, 26; and Michael Miller, 29 – were driving Murfreesboro Pike that night looking for someone to rob. In two cars, they pulled up to the ATM outside of the Bank of America at 2669 Murfreesboro Pike. That’s where Moore said Davis fatally shot Clayton in Clayton’s right eye about 12:45 a.m.

He said Davis went back to a car after the shooting and said something like, “I told him give me the money. He said I’d have to kill him, so I did.”

Moore said a 40-caliber bullet casing left at the crime scene, blood splatter evidence on Davis’s clothes and the testimony of at least two others charged in the case would show Davis was guilty.

Phillips has since pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and is serving a 20-year sentence in prison. Cases against the other two men, Bradford and Miller, are pending.

Davis’s fiancé at the time of his death sat in the courtroom Monday and left in sobs once during testimony.

Davis’s attorney, Dwight Scott, said in a three-minute opening statement that Davis was innocent of the charges. Scott said police botched the investigation by only analyzing Davis’s clothing for DNA evidence, and not the clothing of the three other men.

He said police singled out Davis as the shooter based on the statements of the other men.

“The state’s case in chief rests primarily on two co-defendants, both of whom are thieves, liars and criminals themselves,” Scott said. “And they only seek to gain from their testimony (about) Mr. Davis.”

Davis is serving a 49-year prison sentence for a similar crime committed in Trousdale County the day before Clayton’s death. In that case, court records say Davis and another man kidnapped a man at a carwash and made him drive to an ATM to withdraw cash before beating him up and threatening to kill him. Phillips was also involved in the case, according to the court records.

The victim was injured but was able to escape, and he later identified Davis as the assailant.

That case led police to connect the men to Clayton’s killing.

Reach Stacey Barchenger at 615-726-8968 or on Twitter @sbarchenger.

Christopher Lee Davis case timeline 

2002: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that those who are declared “mentally retarded” cannot be executed, but the court doesn’t provide guidelines to determine who fits that criteria. Tennessee chooses an IQ of 70 or lower as part of its criteria.

2007: Herbert Clayton Jr., 26, is shot and killed at an ATM on Murfreesboro Pike. Metro police arrest Christopher Lee Davis and three others the next day, saying the killing was part of a crime spree.

2008: Prosecutors announce they will seek the death penalty against Davis, described as the triggerman.

2011: Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins rules Davis is “intellectually disabled” and ineligible for the death penalty because of his low IQ, learning and language disabilities and a long history of problems as a child.

January 2014: Watkins allows prosecutors to put on their own psychology expert to prove Davis is not “intellectually disabled.”

July 2014: James Phillips, 29, one of four suspects in the murder, is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

September: New testimony is heard about Davis’ intellectual capabilities. Eventually, prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty in the case.

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Source: Tennessean
Man faces life for killing of veteran at ATM


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